Everyday is a temptation in itself and every action has an element of temptation in it. The choices we make, the words we speak, everything could go a different way if we give in to temptation. From sexual infidelity to speaking in anger to spending that little bit more to have that fried Mars bar, temptations are all part of the world we live in.
For myself, the hardest temptations to fight are the soft voices that tell me to defend myself, to raise my voice, to give in to anger and argue my way to victory. In fact, so often there is no fight, I give in immediately. So frightfully easily. But when you reach the end of the hazy red tunnel, there is no victory, only pain, shame and regret.
As I look to the Word of God, I learn that there is only one way to deal with this everyday life of temptation. That is, simply, to flee from it.
Avoid every kind of evil.
-1 Thessalonians 5:22
Short and sweet. The 'spirit of temptation' is such that the more you try to face it down, the more at risk you are of giving in to it or a different but related temptation. Ever said to yourself:
"I'll just go along with it for now because I'll be able to stop myself if I have to."?
So did Frodo Baggins from the Lord of the Rings. Sure, you aren't furry footed and rather stumpy and neither am I but the issue still stands. The more you face the temptation, the more you are exposed to it and the more likely you are to give in to it. So run.
Run, Luke. Run!
-Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars: A New Hope)
We are all Lukes to God's Obi-Wan. He tells us to run so run we must. Flee from temptation. Force yourself to be calm, give in to opposition if it stops you from becoming angry. Run away from that mini-market with the chocolate bars. Flee from the beckoning hands of the devil. It's not worth it.
For myself, I try to remember:
In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.
A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.
When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.
-1 Peter 2:23
But it is hard. And so far, I have not been the epitome of success nor the best example of godliness. How far am I from Jesus who suffered so much yet did nothing but ask God to forgive those who trespassed against Him. Through Him are we able to defeat temptation and be saved by the mercy and grace of God.
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
-1 Corinthians 10:13
Which gets me to the second half of my thoughts for this post, that we should never be so lost in temptation or far away from God that we forget the joy of salvation. And what a joy it is. Even as young as I am in God, I have already felt myself slide backward away from Him and His love.
With exams and all, I set myself up to study and focus on the papers that would determine my future as a vet, something rather important to me. In doing so I slipped away from the Word, away from this blog that helps me grow and possibly in my own faith. I began to rely on myself to study and to do other things. It wasn't till last Sunday when it was all over that I found that truly, I was empty without God. Once again I felt the joy of salvation, that intense feeling of peace and wholeness of being.
There was a time before semester started when I would walk to church with the confidence that God was with me. I would walk back singing songs of praise, stopping when I passed someone by. I'm shy... But recently I'd just forgotten that confidence, the grace of God and the armour of faith around me. And I felt it again on Sunday and realised my error.
Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Once you feel that joy of being with God again, it is a rewarding but disillusioning feeling. You realise how it easy it is to put things before God and before Jesus Christ. Temptation is the great example. Any temptation can lead to an addiction that redirects your energies away from God to another focus. But we must remember to put the Lord first in all circumstances at all times because with His strength we can face all adversity and temptation.
I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
And when you set the Lord before you at all times, you will be filled by the Holy Spirit, filled by the joy of God and of course the joy of salvation. Honestly, it is a feeling that is hard to describe, the joy of salvation. You feel your heart lift and your lips curl in a smile, your heart feels whole and peace drops a veil over you. And all that is by the grace of God to those who enter the kingdom of God and accept Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
I implore you to be strong in the face of temptation and never lose sight of the great God who loves us. Remember Jesus and the temptations He faced and gain strength from the fact that we have a God who suffered for us and knows all about temptation.
Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.
Who better to go to for strength than Jesus Christ? Who better to ask to place upon our hearts the joy of salvation? Speak to God and say:
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
I pray that you will find freedom from temptation and the strength to flee from every evil.
May you feel the joy of salvation.
May you find the peace of God in your life.